Monday, 6 December 2010

"I Hate My PhD" by...

Finishing my Masters by Research has naturally forced me to look for work and consider all options available for my personal realisation, as a professional as well as a human being. Considering the spectrum of options quite affected by this economical crisis, created on the backstage of the banking speculation and having us all, middle-class as the perfect convenient victims of an engineered economical downfall, I had to consider proceeding my studies. Studentships are enticing for researchers but they represent a dangerous trap. I knew the dangers attached to a life in the lab, constantly living with the pressure of becoming more and more specialised on a certain subject that narrows your vision and shapes you on a conical vertical fashion, you know more and more of a certain scientific area (and that's your base) but as time progresses you know less and less of what is the general knowledge of that same domain (and that is the top you'll ever achieve). The fallacy of research would take me ages to demystify for it is an intrinsic network of interests that play the same hypocritical melody wherever you go in Europe, i.e., you are needed for a few years, you work as a slave, and as you reach the end either you kiss some good old acme ass or you may have to wave that contract goodbye since you did not fulfil one of the reassurances of a researcher's life - slave yourself for someone else's credits.

It is obvious that such promiscuity is not solely attached to a scientific life. These days our lives are nothing but not knowing at all what is going to happen and just expect that somehow governments will ensure our dignity by reinforcing investment in our areas of speciality. That does not happen currently at all, and the crisis we did not create is here for us to pay. That's when a job represents even more than it used to; it is not only what you do but if what you do will ever compensate you in the future, because you might not remember but our time is our best investment. Investing properly in a profession that can guarantee an income is extremely important, and for that proceeding on studying for a PhD wouldn't help me in any way.

Recently, a friend of mine who's name I prefer to keep it undisclosed, gave a lot of thinking to this very same reasoning and after rationalising decided to quit her PhD. She is, and I must underline it as much as possible, a fierce intelligence and an awesome character that I have never seen giving up anything and offering less than her very best whenever asked from her. I can hardly imagine the emotional roller-coaster one goes through in order to consider quitting an ongoing PhD and place your idiosyncratic ideals at stake for you are immediately and utterly exposed to a range of criticism which source is never why we are doing such but how we are not to quit somebody else's achievement plans. No one gives a flying *uck about middle-class these days. No one gives a damn about personal integration, difficulties dealing with emotional challenges that ultimately are expected to stay home whenever you go to work, no one gives a crap about your future because what is in their uttermost interest is their own. The decision my friend took represented an enormous blow on her own self-esteem. I can only use her example for the sake of it, but there are countless examples of people in distress because suddenly their research options proved to be a laughable investment of time that will eventually narrow your employability and shrink it to the point where you represent a mass of ideas with no chance of real positive outcome... because such life is unstable, an emotional challenging operation, for in order to work you'll need to travel abroad and join the most ridiculous short-term projects with no real support. Then you just watch someone gunned with A-levels and GCSEs making their way through because companies do not want to pay postgraduate salaries any longer, and there is a huge gap on technical knowledge in the present times. 

A PhD can be the reaching of your personal goals, but it can also work as a shot on your foot for you are very likely to jeopardise your employability by narrowing your skills, your pay range and your actual knowledge. She is now trying to find herself in a Mad World, where globalisation brought good and bad things, and amongst the bad we can count, for example, the fact that we no longer have governments - we have companies; we no longer have employment policies - we have optimisation and cuts; we no longer have social security and insurance - we have ridiculous benefit packages that promote laziness amongst the poorest and disrupt the middle-class in a nuclear blow of inhumane policies. I am not even asking where the money is, I prefer asking where is the common sense?

Because She is not the only one going through a disruptive phase whilst considering starting from scratch as we all do when we are 18, not 30; I decided to ease her pains by showing that there is thousands if not millions of idiots like us who actually put their professional life at stake when we believe that a postgraduate certificate would represent a better future, a better pay slip, more dignity, more security... BOLLOCKS! here are some testimonies of people who feel just like us, fooled and wronged for the sake of Politics.

"Hi all, 

I hate my PhD. All of it. There's not one single part of it that I enjoy. I hate lab work, I hate reading, I simply have no interest in my work (I think I'd feel the same way about a different project too. The predicament I'm in now is that I'm just entering my 3rd year of a 4 year funded biochemistry PhD and I just can't take it anymore. I've already decided that I don't want to work in a lab or be a researcher ever again, I want to go into some sort of graduate scheme instead. 

I feel like I want to quit but I also feel like I've done 2 years and it would be such a waste to quit now. I've been considering quitting since I started and just wish I had earlier on! Last year I suffered from a serious episode of depression where I was on medication and seeing a therapist for a year, and I assumed that I felt the way I did about my PhD because of my illness, but since I've got better I realised that the way I feel about my PhD caused my depression! 

My coping strategy for the last year has been to do just 9-5 in the lab, which isn't enough in my field, I don't have enough data. So I also have to put up with the guilt and shame of being the last person to arrive in a morning and first person to leave at the end of the day. I was also hoping to finish in 3-3.5 years but I won't have enough data by then. I will have to work longer hours to get the data which I know will tip me over the edge into another bout of depression. 

I would just quit but feel like I have wasted 2 years and also worry about my job prospects with a failed PhD on my CV, I don't think I even have enough data to turn it into a Masters. Also, if I do decide to quit, do I find a job first or save myself some further unhappiness and just quit now? 

My supervisor is very unhelpful, she was supportive about my depression to start with but then she seemed to get frustrated with me for not getting better 'quick enough'. Now I am better (but still deeply unhappy, anyone who has been clinically depressed will know the difference) she is clearly dissapointed with my lack of data and shows no interest in me whatsoever. I think she thinks I'm lazy and don't work hard enough. 

As soon as it's the weekend, I'm a different person, happy and bouncy and full of energy. This is what I used to be like all the time, my PhD is crushing my soul!! I've never hated a job as much as this, I usually throw my heart and soul into something so I also beat myelf up for not trying my hardest either. 

Just not sure where to turn or what to do next! If I speak to friends and family that aren't dong PhDs, they say quit but people who are doing PhDs say stay! Considering telling my supervisor how I feel but I believe she would be very unsupportive and possibly just fire me on the spot! 

Sorry for the major essay and rant but I'm at my wits end! Any advice or comments would be appreciated. Thank you."


"I'm in a similar situation too. 5 months into PhD, hate it so much I want to throw myself out from the window right now! I'm losing sleep, getting grumpy and whining all the time. I think I'm well on my way to clinical depression. Wink 

A short background on my journey so far: exciting new project at state level, received a national scholarship, famous supervisors, relocated to another country, left a wonderful, more importantly high income job behind. All sound like a dream come true (except the job part, I actually liked my job). Unfortunately the topic the supervisors had in mind wasn't what I'm interested. I thought, ok, a new area in the field, could be fun! I tried, in God's name I tried and tried and tried to like this "new area". But the world is a funny place, the new area and I just don't click. I tried to negotiate the topic but they quite clearly told me that there's not the slightest chance. So I'm in a situation which when I procrastinate, I feel guilty for not doing something I hate! What on earth is wrong with me?! I am quitting! 

1 hour ago, I had a talk with one of the supervisors who is more on my side, she said she would try to talk to the other two again, and naturally she tried to talk me out of it. So I asked her, if a coupe gets married and one of them found that he/she does not love the other person anymore, when will he/she finally decide to stop trying and get a divorce? She gave a weak laugh and an empathetic look. I remember a scene from the first "Sex and the City" movie, Samantha was wondering whether she should break up with Smith, who is young, hot, famous, went through chemo with her and loves her to death. Not to mention that he is every gay man and straight woman's dream. Then Kerry said, Samantha, you just compared your relationship with Smith with chemo. At that moment Samantha knew the answer. 

So what is my PhD to me? Well, it's a burden that inflicts tremendous pain on me 24/7, brings out the worst in me and makes me a less person than I was. Oh, I can see the upside in chemo, it might kill the cancer. But my G what's the upsides of this PhD to me? 

The idea of doing research is still quite appealing to me, because the joy of completing my MA thesis is so deep I can drown in it. I worked 8-9 hours everyday, 6-7 days a week, I was working part-time at the same time, lived in a student accommodation (not agreeable!), ate microwave food and had no social life. But all those things didn't matter, I love my topic so much! One day I will do a PhD in something I really enjoy. For tonight, I'm hanging out with my friends, guilt free!"



I have started with Phd and I found the supervisor quite not only unhelpful but also trying to put me down from the beginning well I really did not understand why. may be because I am a girlish one.... well I tried alot and after a year and four months struggling and working in the laboratory I changed supervisor and I have submitted my thesis as a master. But I found Phd or master as one of the horrible part  of my life. I am recovering from it to be a normal person someone who can live normally which is still far away from it. I ended up with panic attacks and after 9 months I cannot meet him as I feel a deep fear in myself.. and I cannot control myself that is the reason that I quit the joint meeting with my current supervisor most of the time... 

The point was that as long as I have started to have data in my second year putting me down and joking behaviour were started and I have never understood why.... well, I guess it might be  because I am girl, Muslim and form middleestern part of the world... 

I am still searching for job here nothing happened for the past 2 months... however, I have not been graduated yet and I am waiitng for exmainaiton of thesis it was a bad experience, but I think if I would go on with phd and was down in 4th or 3rd year it was worst than what I am now... 

I am happy with my decision and I really like to go on and find a job outside academic, I find academic with no knowledge based just a connection matters. It really does not matter how informed you are and what knowledge you have, it matters what is your connection... 

My supervisor once told me that if you win noble prize you might not get an academic position...well, after two years I find that being in industry is much more attractive to me than research which is based on personal decison of one or two persons.... 

I am happy with my decision however it makes me sad sometimes of thinking about it... 

It is quite obvious from my resume that it is unlikely that I intentionally did master as my previous degreee is doctorate... but still I believe that I can find a job... in inudstry...what i learnt from that when it passed it was not that much important than what I thought.......... 

so, if it makes you sick get out of it, if you enjoy it stay on and do not build your way to phd on 
supervisor.... remember that the best lesson from phd is how to manage relationship and how to balance life work balance the way you be happy and you can do as efficient as you can it is not just science... 

I think science is really the easiest part of phd among all those.... 

most of them they are just a name and a signature at the end...and when your work turned down to a positive part they suddenly come and get the credit that we tried hard to help you..... 

wish you luck but do not give up fast..."

You can find several other testimonies here (Postgraduate Forum) and an awesome article on PhDs by the The Economist right here (I found it when reading a Facebook comment on a friend who had just given his VIVA).



  1. I think I can understand how many of these persons feel. I did a Masters degree in England and came back home to the Caribbean to do jobs that paid little or nothing, and made little use of that second degree. Having been through that experience, I was convinced that a PhD was simply not a wise choice. Besides, most of the research in natural science being done in my country is based in one area that I simply do not have a personal interest in anyway. There really is limited scope to do anything significant with a higher degree here, and several persons just opt to teach.

  2. Thanks a lot for sharing it with us P. A. It is quite tough and I hope you can find a way soon. All the best, mate.